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A global view on American gun violence

Firearm ownership and homicides relative to the rest of the world.

By Rich_Maloof Dec 19, 2012 7:50PM

Around the world, there are more than 656,000,000 firearms in the hands of civilians. A fresh batch of eight million small arms are manufactured every year, plus 10 to 15 billion rounds of ammunition. That’s enough to shoot every person in the world — twice.

Photo: Bill Boch/Getty ImagesWhere does the U.S. rank in gun ownership and gun violence relative to other countries of the world?

It depends on how you consider the data: by percentage of guns per capita, by mass killings committed, by gun homicides in nations with comparable economies, or even by unintentional gun deaths.

We are the unrivaled leader in all of those categories.

Here are a few facts to begin gaining some perspective.

There are an estimated 270,000,000 guns held by civilians in the U.S. — more than the number of passenger cars by about 50 million. It may be expected that we’d have more than the other 178 countries surveyed, but we also have by far the highest percentage of guns per capita. The rate? For every 100 people in America there are 88.8 guns. The nearest competitor is Serbia at 58.21 per 100 people, and rates fall off significantly from there.

Related: What NOT to say to families who are grieving

Ownership rates can’t be equated with violence, and we are not the most homicidal nation by a long shot. Honduras has only 6.2 guns per 100 people, a small fraction of our own rate, but has the most homicides per gun. In that small Central American republic there are 68.43 killings by gun per 100,000 people, compared to just 2.98 per 100,000 in the U.S.

In fact, underdeveloped nations far surpass wealthier regions in armed civilian violence. Countries in Central America, South America, the Caribbean, the near and middle East, and Southwest Asia far outgun North America, Central Asia, and Europe in percentage of homicides by firearm.

Bing: Obama pledges action on gun violence now

However, relative to other highly developed nations, our record is abysmal. Using statistics from the UN and national sources, PolitiFact calculated that the rate of gun homicide in the U.S. was 15 times the rate of comparable countries like Australia, Japan, Norway, and the UK nations (as of 2009).

Mass shootings are not unique to America. But for civilian massacres outside of wartime, we have more than all other nations combined. Of the 25 worst mass shootings of the past 50 years listed in Time this past July, months before Sandy Hook, 15 occurred in the U.S. Of the other nations, only Finland, with two entries, had more than one shooting ranked.

Related: Managing kids' media exposure

Worldwide there are more than 1,000 gun deaths daily. In the U.S., we average 25 every day, or more than one person shot to death every hour.

Back in 2000, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that the death toll from small arms “dwarfs that of all other weapons systems — and in most years greatly exceeds the toll of the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

In other words, the carnage wrought by the most devastating weapons of mass destruction ever unleashed on mankind is repeated every year in gun violence. Certainly there’s an argument to be made for responsible firearm ownership. But there’s no debating that if it weren’t for gun violence, nearly 300,000 people who were alive at this time last year would still be breathing.

Primary sources: Geneva Declaration Secretariat, GunPolicy.org, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, PolitiFact Virginia

Photo: Bill Boch/Getty Images

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Dec 19, 2012 10:47PM
How about plain old good parenting.
Dec 19, 2012 10:45PM
If the government REALLY wanted to save lives they need to limit medical mistakes and limit access to motor vehicles.

Deaths from avoidable medical error more than double in past decade, investigation shows

"The total number of iatrogenic deaths shown in the following table is 783,936. It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States"

From: http://www.newmediaexplorer.org/sepp/2003/10/29/medical_system_is_leading_cause_of_death_and_injury_in_us.htm

"Of the total 323,993 deaths among Medicare patients in those years who developed one or more patient-safety incidents, 263,864, or 81 percent, of these deaths were directly attributable to the incident(s)."

From: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/11856.php

"In 2003 there were 6,328,000 car accidents in the US. There were 2.9 million injuries and 42,643 people were killed in auto accidents."

From: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_deaths_are_caused_by_car_accidents_a_year#ixzz1Cpn4wPAZ

"In the U.S. for 2006, there were 30,896 deaths from firearms, distributed as follows by mode of death: Suicide 16,883; Homicide 12,791; Accident 642; Legal Intervention 360; Undetermined 220."


There are over 25,000 laws on the book's regarding guns and gun ownership. Now, since gun deaths are lower then medical mistakes and vehicle accidents where do you think more emphasis on "control" should be placed?
Dec 19, 2012 10:45PM

Why does the United States of Amierica rank number one in gun ownership outside of MILITARY REGIMES AND DICTATORSHIPS WORLDWIDE? There's your answer. The United States of America was born out of the extraordinary courage of CITIZENS who stood up to TYRANNY and created the first true constitutional democracy. And for those of you think that a totalitarian state could never happen here, THINK AGAIN. It can happen anywhere. Anywhere where citizens are disarmed and government how ever seemingly well-meaning has absolute power over them. Whether for personal protection, home protection, hunting, sporting or collecting, gun ownership is a RIGHT, PERIOD. Perhaps instead we should ask why the average modern US teen has witnessed more than 17,000 virtual homicides on the big screen and television by the time they reach 18. If you don't think relentless exposure through media including the endless litany of COP DRAMAS and hyper violent big selling video games and two grotesque wars doesn't desensitize young vulnerable minds THINK AGAIN. How ironic that many of these extreme video games come from the country of Japan where violence against others is totally taboo. There is a term for this callous ignorance. It's called THE TRIVIALIZING OF VIOLENCE, and it is a sickness, a societal psychopathology. Start addressing that issue and your problem is solved.


And let's use of our heads and have school districts assigning a rotating educator to monitor a bay of video cams each and every period of the day. They'll all be trained in emergency measures and c****rt and lock down a school in a heartbeat. This is absolutely fundamental. And every principal and vice principal should have easy coded access to a security safe which contains two tasers, pepper spray and yes a handgun. Problem solved.


And one last thought. No matter how well-meaning it might seem, let's not train those with known histories of behavioral/mental illness in firearm handling. That's another tragedy waiting to happen.

Dec 19, 2012 10:45PM
Australia, Japan, Norway and the U.K. doesn't have Chicago! Let's let them have them then the rates will be comparable!
Dec 19, 2012 10:44PM

 there is enough laws on the books alredy already got a do is enforce them. We cannot count on the government are law enforcement to protect us if we need them. If there wasn't guns you sick people will think of something else to harm anybody they can no matter who.  our government should be doing more to help the American people and their economy to try to get our great country back to work. Like I say there is enough laws on the books  now let's enforce them. Again my heart goes out to the families in Connecticut .

Dec 19, 2012 10:44PM
The author failed to report whether or not the guns used in the murders in the United States were registered legally or were they illegally obtained and whether or not the shooter was the registered owner or not.  This is an important issue because bad guys DO NOT register guns.  The key is responsible gun ownership, keeping ammunition locked up away from the guns; having a loaded pistol for home defense in a location ONLY the homeowners know and not their children, and the all important problem of the lack of mental health programs and institutions to support parents who cannot "go it alone" no matter how hard they try, and recognizing behavior patterns that lead up to these mass shootings. In all too many cases all the signs were there and recognized by a parent, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist, and superiors in Washington D.C. as in Fort Hood and nothing was done.  Second guessing leads to a very bad outcome and those that saw the signs did nothing.  They are to blame for these tragedies and no one else.     
Dec 19, 2012 10:43PM

Im sure once we start arming teachers and everyone else in the school we can have another statistic to start keeping track of...


"Number of kids hurt or killed by accidental discharge or because of negligent armed faculty members, per year."

Dec 19, 2012 10:42PM
Creating more gun control is only going to control people who already abide by the rules...and punish those same people. Criminals don't abide by the rules.  We need better criminal control as well as help for people with mental health issues.
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